Cannabis Statistics

Cannabis Data

As of October 17, 2018, adults who are 19 years of age or older in Ontario can legally possess and purchase cannabis with some restrictions. Additional information about Ontario’s laws is available on the Government of Ontario's webage on Cannabis Legalization.

Cannabis use has some health risks that are best avoided by abstaining from use. For individuals who choose to use cannabis, the Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines provide information on how to reduce health risks associated with cannabis use.

Cannabis use among Ottawa adults

Cannabis use for adults includes those who have used cannabis in the past 12 months while excluding those who have only used it once in their lifetime.

  • Cannabis use in Ottawa among those 19 years of age or older is slightly higher than the provincial average: 15% compared to 11%. [1]
  • Cannabis use is highest among men (20%) and young adults age 19 to 24 (33%) and those with a high school education as their highest educational attainment (25%) (Figure 1).
  • Ottawa residents with a mother tongue other than French or English had lower rates of cannabis use (5%). [1]

Figure 1. Cannabis use in Ottawa by subgroup (19 years of age or older), with the exception of the 12 to 18 age group, 2015-2016. 

A horizontal bar graph showing prevalence estimate of cannabis use in the past 12 months by subgroups based on 2015-2016 data.

Data Source and Notes for Figure 1

Canadian Community Health Survey 2015-2016. MOHLTC Share File.

  • The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) is an annual national population health survey conducted by Statistics Canada.
  • Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals
  • NR means not reportable due to high sampling variability
  • Asterisk means interpret with caution due to high sampling variability
Data Table for Figure 1
Table 1. Cannabis use in Ottawa by subgroup (19 years of age or older), with the exception of the 12 to 18 age group, 2015-2016
MeasurePrevalence of Cannabis Use in the Past 12 Months95% Confidence IntervalsInterpretation
Ottawa 14.7 2.1  
Ontario less Ottawa 11.1 0.6  
Men 19.9 3.5  
Women 9.7 2.5  
12 to 18 Years Old 12.1 8.2 Interpret with caution
19 to 24 Years Old 32.7 11.8 Interpret with caution
25 to 44 Years Old 24.2 4.9  
45 to 64 Years Old 5.8 2.3  
65 Years Old or Older Not reportable    
English 17.7 4  
French 18.1 6.7 Interpret with caution
Other 5.4 3.3 Interpret with caution
No High School  Not reportable 2.9  
High School  25.4 8 Interpret with caution
Postsecondary  12.3 2.6  
Cannabis use among Ottawa youth
  • In 2017, 18% of Ottawa students in Grades 7 to 12 reported using cannabis in the past year, which is similar to students in the rest of Ontario (19%). Use in the past year use has not significantly changed in Ottawa since 2009. [2]
  • Among students who’ve used cannabis: [2]
    • one-quarter (27%) first tried it before Grade 9,
    • half (50%) first tried it in Grade 9 or 10, and
    • one in five (21%) first tried it in Grade 11 or 12.
  • Just over 1/3 of Ottawa students in Grades 7 to 12 (34%) felt that getting cannabis would be easy or fairly easy. [2]
Are people more likely to use now that cannabis is legal?
  • Approximately 13% of adults who have not used cannabis in the past year are at least moderately likely to try cannabis post-legalization. [3]
  • Once legalized, 13% of Grade 9 to 12 students in Ottawa reported they would try cannabis. An additional 19% of Grade 9 to 12 students reported they would use it as often or more often than they currently do. [2]
What are the harms related to cannabis?

There are some harms associated with cannabis use.

  • The annual number and rate (per 100,000 population) of emergency department (ED) visits directly related to cannabis use has increased from 2008 to 2017 (Figure 2). 
  • Over 93% of cannabis-related ED visits are for mental and behavioural disorders. The frequency of cannabis-related mental and behavioural disorders by type of disorder are shown in Table 3.
  • These statistics do not represent the full health burden of cannabis. Harms secondary to cannabis use, such as injuries resulting from a car crash where the driver was impaired by cannabis can’t be identified from existing data.

Figure 2. Annual number of cannabis-related emergency department (ED) visits and rate as ED visits per 100,000 population for Ottawa residents from 2008 to 2017

Figure 2A bar graph showing the number and population rate of cannabis-related emergency department visits between 2008 and 2016.

 Data Source and Notes for Figure 2
National Ambulatory Care Reporting System 2008-2017, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, IntelliHEALTH ONTARIO, Date Extracted: Aug 2018. 
 Data Table for Figure 2
Table 2. Cannabis related emergency department visits as counts and rate per 100,000 population in Ottawa by calendar year, 2008 to 2017
Calendar CountRate
2008  202 23.2
2009 175 19.8
2010 209 23.2
2011 245 26.9
2012 281 30.4
2013 359 38.3
2014 505 53.3
2015 498 52.0
2016 654  67.2
2017 883 88.6

 

Table 3. Percent of cannabis-related mental and behavioural ED visits by diagnosis category from 2008 to 2017 in Ottawa
Diagnosis category*Percent of visits **
Acute intoxication 19%
Harmful use 55%
Dependence syndrome 10%
Withdrawal 3%
Psychotic disorder 8%
Other or unspecified disorders 5%
 Data Source and Notes for Table 3

National Ambulatory Care Reporting System 2008-2017, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, IntelliHEALTH ONTARIO, Date Extracted: Aug 2018.

* Codes for some categories are combined (e.g. withdrawal and withdrawal delirium)

** Codes used less than 1% of the time are not included

 

How are people using cannabis?

  • Ottawa level data on methods and practices is not currently available
  • Canadian data shows the main methods of consumption were [5]:
    • smoking (94%),
    • eating in food (34%),
    • vaporizing using a vape pen (20%), and
    • vaporizing using a vaporizer (14%).

People's perception of smoking or using edible cannabis

  • In Ottawa, 63% of those who had used cannabis in the past 12 months thought that the effects are felt more quickly when cannabis is smoked as compared to eaten (63%). This drops to 43% among those who have used cannabis in the past but haven’t used it in the past 12 months. Over half of those who have never used cannabis (58%) were not sure. [3]

  • In Ottawa, 84% of those who had used cannabis in the past 12 months thought that smoking cigarettes was more harmful than smoking cannabis (84%). Those who used before but not in the past year were less likely to think this (62%) as were those who have never used (42%). [3]

Cannabis and potency

  • There is no population health data about how people choose cannabis products or how things like potency may influence choices. The source people choose (e.g. home grown, retail cannabis) may be important for potency considerations. 

Cannabis availability and access

  • Just over one-third (34%) of Ottawa students in Grades 7 to 12 think cannabis would be fairly easy or very easy to get if they wanted some. [2]
  • Perceived ease of availability increased with increasing age: 14%* of Grade 7 to 8 students, 30% of Grade 9 to 10 students, and 63% of Grade 11 to 12 students think cannabis would be fairly easy or very easy to get. [2]
  • Almost half (44%) of Grade 7 to 12 students who used cannabis in the past year reported that it was given to or shared with them by a friend, sibling or parent. [2]
  • Canadian data shows that about 36% adults tend to get cannabis from friend or family. [5]


*Interpret with caution due to high sampling variability

Frequency and intensity of cannabis use

Frequent (i.e., daily or near daily) use can increase the likelihood of negative health effects, particularly mental health problems, dependence, and changes to brain growth and development prior to 25 years of age.

  • Just over a third of Ottawa residents (36%) who used cannabis in the past year report using it weekly or more, 19% use it between 1 to 3 times a month and 44% report using it less than once a month. [1]
  • Among Grade 9-12 students, 11% report using cannabis more than 10 times in the 12 months prior to the survey. [2]

Cannabis and driving

  • The risk of accident involvement and driving-related injuries or death is two to three times higher among cannabis-impaired compared with non-impaired drivers. The risk is even higher if cannabis and alcohol are used together. [6]
  • One in ten Grade 7 to 12 students (11%) have ridden in a vehicle at least once in the past year when the driver had been using drugs. [2]
  • In Canada, 14% of cannabis users with a valid driver's license said they had driven within two hours of use. This increases to 23% for drivers who used cannabis daily or weekly. [5
  • In Ottawa, 84% of those who used cannabis in the past year felt that cannabis use impairs one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. [3]

Special risk populations 

People with a history or family history of psychosis or substance use disorders have higher or distinct risks for cannabis-related health problems. [6]

  • Ottawa residents who self-report a mood or anxiety disorder were just over twice as likely to have used cannabis in the past 12 months compared to those not reporting such a disorder: 27% versus 12% [1]. This does not imply causation, but that a group that may be vulnerable appears to be using cannabis.
  • Current evidence demonstrates that cannabis can cross the placenta and is found in breast milk [7], so pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid using cannabis. [6]

References

  1. Canadian Community Health Survey 2015-2016, Statistics Canada, Share File, Ontario MOHLTC.
  2. Ottawa Public Health. Public Health Monitoring of Risk Factors in Ontario-OSDUHS (2017). Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; 2018.Survey of Ottawa Residents of Health Risks of Cannabis. EKOS Research Associates Inc. January 4, 2018
  3. Survey of Ottawa Residents of Health Risks of Cannabis. EKOS Research Associates Inc. January 4, 2018
  4. National Ambulatory Care Reporting System 2008-2017, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, IntelliHEALTH ONTARIO, Date Extracted: Aug 2018
  5. The Canadian Cannabis Survey. Health Canada 2017. Summary available from:  https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/drugs-health-products/canadian-cannabis-survey-2017-summary.html
  6. Fischer, B., Russell, C., Sabioni, P., van den Brink, W., Le Foll, B., Hall, W., Rehm, J. & Room, R. (2017). Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (LRCUG): An evidence-based update. American Journal of Public Health, 107(8). DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.303818
  7. Metz TD, Borgelt LM. Marijuana Use in Pregnancy and While Breastfeeding. Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Sep 18. [Epub ahead of print]

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